Flowers, true blue – Judy, this one’s for you!

In response to my previous post on flowers in The Color of the Year, ‘Tangerine Tango’, my friend – the uber-talented fiber artist Judy Rush (check her stuff out at http://judyrush.com) – posted a comment regarding the real, “true blues” in nature. She’s right – while the hotter side of the spectrum sliding over into purple, has overwhelming variety, there really aren’t very many truly blue flowers. Those that do exist, are often small and pass relatively unnoticed, unless they are presented “en masse”. Of course there are exceptions confirming the general rule (think primadonnas like irises, delphiniums, hydrangeas etc.).

There are probably as many definitions of blue as there are people. What appears blue to me may be deemed purple or green by another. Sometimes the camera seems to pull the color in one spectral direction, or another. And, certainly, the quality of available light as well as the color of the immediate surroundings, always tweaks things. But, regardless of all that – even if some of these may be perceived as having a slight, purple tone – to me, they feel more blue than purple, and have thus been included.

I never managed to figure out why I couldn’t get the photographs to line up with the text  in my post on tangerine flowers, so since this too is a photo-heavy post, I’m trying something new here. Instead of trying to line up text with each photo, I will write the text as part of the photo’s caption. Hope that works…

Also called “Himalayan poppy” the Meconopsis is probably one of the most desirable of the blues. Allegedly somewhat tricky to please, it will reward you with silken, sky blue petals, if happy.

Flax flowers are beautiful – and they provide us with one of the most useful plant fibers around – linen!

An image that popped into my head was the vast fields of blooming flax you may sometimes come across if you’re lucky. Individually, they are the perfect little daisy-like flowers, but by the millions, they are absolutely breathtaking!

Gentian Violet, has – despite its name – a beautiful blue color. If you’ve ever had a baby suffering from thrush, you may know what this is. Thrush can be successfully treated with a plant extract from this pretty flower, with the added bonus of a hilarious looking kid with a purple mouth!

Agapanthus, or Lily of the Nile, come in a wide range of blues – some light, some dark. I even have a purple one in my garden, but that one doesn’t count here.


This one is a very pretty sky blue.

My treasured Blåsippa – Hepatica Nobilis, with its hairy little stems that seem made to keep the cold out. In my native Sweden, these little anemones can often be found where hazel shrubs grow, and seeing them brings back lots of childhood memories. When I found a plant at the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon’s spring plant sale a few years ago, I was positively giddy! Just HAD to have it!

Anemone de Caen ‘Mr. Fokker’ is by far my favorite of these types of anemones. But is it blue – or purple? Perhaps both this one, as well as the Hepatica above are technically a reddish blue, but in my book, they are still overwhelmingly blue. I guess blue is in the eye of the beholder…

Veronica – I have plenty of this in my garden – all stemming from one plant. It makes for a great ground cover, and smiles up on you with tiny blue flowers for weeks on end.

I love the Blue star creeper! Not only is it pretty when in bloom, but when it’s not, it’s tiny leaves form tidy carpets of green that happily spread. With these as an option, I don’t know why anyone insists on keeping their lawns!

Here is a close-up of the Blue star creeper flowers. They are quite elegant… They also come in a  darker blue.

A sea of blue eventually happens, when scillas are allowed to naturalize freely. What a breathtaking sight!

On their own, scillas are exquisite little creatures that brighten the early spring weeks. I say, scatter them throughout and let them do their thing! It’s a sight worth waiting for…

Another early presence in the garden is the Iris reticulata. In my garden it comes back year after year, and is one of the first to surface, along with the scillas.

Entire books have been written on Irises. They come in a rainbow of shapes and colors. My favorites tend to mirror the simple, crisp lines of the one above. And I have a definite soft spot for the blue ones. No wonder the French royals chose it to be their mark – the Fleur-de-lys.

From royal coats of arms to farmland fare – the grain fields of my youth was were you could find the bachelor’s buttons growing, side by side with bright red poppies. The prettiest weeds you ever saw… Increasing use of herbicides have made them scarcer in recent times, but it used to be ubiquitous enough to become the flower  chosen to represent the part of Sweden I grew up in – Östergötland. During Victorian times, young maidens used to pin these to their dresses, so as to signal their marital status and availability. Thus the nick name “bachelor’s button”.

Another one of spring’s offerings, the chionodoxa’s sky blue flowers brighten the landscape before the warm weather truly arrives.

Like scillas and chionodoxas, pearl hyacinths naturalize freely where happy.

When I first saw a Brunnera in bloom, I thought it was some weird kind of Forget-Me-Nots. The flowers are almost identical. This is a great shade plant, as its tidy mound of showy, marbled leaves can lighten up a dark corner long after the flowers are gone.

Here is a close-up of a Forget-Me-Not flower. See how similar it is to the Brunnera?

Vincas make a great ground cover with its glossy green leaves and blue or white flowers. Here in the Pacific Northwest, they are known to be invasive and are considered “non-grata” but they are pretty all the same!

You know summer is almost here when you see the purples and blues of the Ceanothus shrubs putting on their display! Also called California Lilacs, they are everything a California plant should be – tough, extremely drought tolerant (it DEMANDS a dry summer), and lovely. The bees never leave its side when it’s blooming, and each shrub is alive with blissful buzzing. A wonderful choice! I used to have a C. ‘Dark Star’ that reached up to my second story windows. It toppled over under the heavy weight of one of those rare, wet and sloppy, western Oregon snowfalls we had a few years ago. It never recovered and had to be removed. Still haven’t gotten around to replacing it, but – trust me – I will! They are gorgeous plants!

Also known as Monkshood and Wolfbane, the Aconitum is a tall, stately, fall bloomer. All parts of this plant are toxic – especially the roots. It’s the perfect example of color as a deterrent. Before our natural instincts had been broken down by modern inventions like FDA blue #5, no one in their right mind would EVER consider eating something that was bright blue!

Related to the buttercup, the majestic Delphinium retains the buttercup’s toxicity, as well as their leaf shape, but is otherwise everything that its cousin is not.

Like Irises, the Salvia family includes a staggering variety of colors, but here is the bluest one I found – Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’.

Although they come in a range of different shades, the Lobelia is undeniably blue. This old-fashioned ground cover is generally an annual. Although I have never planted it myself, I have had volunteers that must have spread from seeding plants in the neighborhood. Their pretty blue faces are always welcome!

Lithodora is another true blue ground cover that flowers atop evergreen cliff-hanging cushions of green.

Erithronium – or blue globe thistle – is a fantastic looking thistle with a shape that would fit well into a Dr. Seuss story. It adds great texture whether fresh cut or dried.

This ornamental onion – Persian Allium –  has the same dramatic globe shape as the globe thistle, but is larger, and comes from a completely different family. Most are purple (think chives) or white, but this one is more blue.

Another showy thistle – Eryngium, or blue sea holly. Like the globe thistle, it is great for dried arrangements as well as fresh.

Blue Hydrangeas are plentiful – here is one called ‘Blue Star’.

The color of hydrangeas change according to how much aluminum sulfate it can extract from the soil. Generally, it takes a few years for the shrub to “settle” into its “true'”color for any particular spot, after planting. This one is called ‘Blue Wave’.

A lighter blue mop-head hydrangea classic called ‘Nikko Blue’. The mop-head hydrangeas can bloom for nearly half a year, and are some of the best flower-power bargains in the plant world, in terms of show.

A lace-cap hydrangea called ‘Bluebird’. The actual flowers are in the center. What looks like petals are actually sterile sepals.

Purple Clematis are abundant but very few are blue. This one – Clematis alpina ‘Blue Dancer’ – is about as blue as they get. It blooms early in my garden. Here it is intertwined with Clematis armandii ‘Apple blossom’.

It was difficult to find climbers representing a good, true blue, but the intricate passionflower does it well. Often treated as an annual, here in the Pacific Northwest it will usually survive the winter.

The humble Morning Glory provides a worthy ending to my little forage into the world of blue flowers. Come to think of it, in all likelihood, this is what kicked off my life-long interest in plants. I was probably no more than 5 years old when my grandfather Ragnar and I planted seeds of just this kind. I recall being fascinated at how each flower only lived for one day, and at how beautiful they were. Tack snälla Farfar, for getting me started!

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About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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2 Responses to Flowers, true blue – Judy, this one’s for you!

  1. mastery2010 says:

    Wonderful job putting the text with the pictures.
    Easy to read!
    Thank you Anna. I knew you would find a few! My experience is that there are many more red blues in nature than what the Himalayan poppy offers. I will go in search of blue to color so I can learn how blue works.
    Did I tell you that a dye in the dye family I use (sabracron fiber reactive dyes), a beautiful Himalayan poppy blue called Brilliant blue is no longer available for home dyeing. The dye was found to CURE SPINAL CORD INJURIES in rats. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/07/photogalleries/blue-rats-food-dye-heals-pictures/

    Thank you again Anna.

    • annamadeit says:

      Yes, you did tell me about the spinal cord curing dye. Fascinating! But I wonder why soft drink manufacturers can still get it, while you can’t… What’s up with that???
      Also, I just realized that I TOTALLY forgot about Ceanothus – the California lilac. Not sure how I could miss it – it’s blooming everywhere around here – right NOW! I’ll go in an add a photo or two – they deserve to be part of the line-up!

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